Two days before Christmas, one of the nation’s best safeties for the 2021 class publicly declared his decision to play college football at home. However, safety Hunter Wohler actually called Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst a few days earlier on the evening of Dec. 19 to deliver the good news.
“I just thanked him for everything, and then I told him that I decided to commit to Wisconsin, and he was super excited,” Wohler told AllBadgers.com on Dec. 24. “He couldn’t wait to get to work. The overall message was just that it's time to win a championship and do something that’s never been done.”
Wohler’s commitment to UW continues the program’s impressive start to the 2021 recruiting class that includes eight prep standouts. 247Sports, ESPN and Rivals all designate the defensive back from Muskego as a four-star talent. The latter service ranks him as the No. 203 player overall and No. 6 safety in the nation for that cycle.
“So I was up there [at Wisconsin] two Saturdays ago just for a bowl practice. I got to watch some of the practice, talk to the coaches, meet some of the players,” Wohler said. “On my way home on Saturday, I just realized that’s where I wanted to be. I realized it’s where my home is. So then I talked about it with my family Saturday night.
“Since Thursday was pretty much the only open, free night that we had as a family, we decided that Thursday was going to be the day that I would call and give the news.”
According to Wohler, he believes he has visited Wisconsin about five times since January. He described the coaching staff as “unbelievable” and "top of the line" while also calling out the team’s goals and vision.
There is also the proximity and distance from home, where a stroll west on I-94 takes about 90 minutes from Muskego to Camp Randall Stadium.
“It’s close to my family,” Wohler said. “Family is important to me, so to have them at my games and to be able to come home for the holidays and if anything happens, that means a lot to me.”
Wohler will also have an opportunity to work with Wisconsin defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Jim Leonhard. The in-state product believes the help of the former walk-on turned All-American and 10-year NFL veteran can take his skills to the next level.
“He’s one of the best coaches there is, especially at the safety position,” Wohler said. “He knows how to coach everyone based on their skillset, on their physical body type so I think he’s going to help me tremendously on everything from footwork to technique to tackling.”
Wohler announced Wisconsin’s offer in early February — the first scholarship opportunity he received — but the relationship with UW started when special teams coach Chris Haering introduced himself after the defensive back’s sophomore season.
Then in January, the assistant notified the safety that they wanted to offer and get him up to the UW campus as soon as possible.
“The following week after I received the offer, I headed up there just to look around, get to know the facilities and everything, talk to the coaches,” Wohler said. “From there, it’s just gotten on the phone a bunch, visits up there, unofficials, and just kind of kept talking.”
During the 2019 season, Wohler helped the Warriors win its second consecutive Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) Division I State Championship. According to WisSports.Net, the defensive back recorded 122 tackles, three for loss, plus two interceptions.
Honors flowed in from the Associated Press (AP) -- where he claimed the state player of the year honors -- along with the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (WFCA) naming him its large school defensive player of the year. He also added a unanimous AP first-team all-state selection and WFCA large school all-state pick to his already impressive resumé.
Other Division I powerhouses also showed interest and presented opportunities to play at the next level that included the aforementioned Buckeyes, Wolverines and Fighting Irish. According to Rivals, he also received offers from Iowa, Iowa State and Michigan State. Wohler decided to stay within state borders, but one assistant he notified to tell of his commitment was Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.
“Coach Mattison was one of the first people I called after I committed, and I just wanted to thank him for everything since he’s been a big part of my recruiting,” Wohler said. “He’s one of my favorite coaches that I’ve talked to along this path.
“It was tough, but overall he said that he was happy for me.”
Wohler joins a group of 2021 Badgers that ranks No. 5 in the nation by both 247Sports and Rivals as of Dec. 26. As the communication within his class begins to take further shape, he noted that he has been in more contact with some 2020 signees that includes projected wide receiver/athlete Chimere Dike, tight end Cole Dakovich, defensive lineman Cade McDonald and offensive tackle Trey Wedig.
Competing within the strong Classic Eight conference, Wohler has played against Dike (Waukesha North), Dakovich (Waukesha Catholic Memorial) and Wedig (Kettle Moraine) during his sophomore and junior years. Both Muskego and Catholic Memorial repeated as state champions this season in different divisions of the WIAA.
Wohler, a multi-sport athlete that takes part in football, basketball and even water skiing, also faced off against Dike in track.
Looking ahead to the 2021 cycle, Wisconsin holds five commitments from in-state recruits Wohler, J.P. Benzschawel, Jackson Acker, Loyal Crawford and Ayo Adebogun. According to Rivals' rankings for that class, Chryst and his staff have secured verbals from the top five players from the Badger State to pair with out-of-state linebacker Bryan Sanborn (Lake Zurich, Ill.), quarterback Deacon Hill (Santa Barbara, Calif.) and offensive lineman Riley Mahlman (Lakeville, Minn.).
Within the last two weeks, Wisconsin has seen its 2021 class increase by three with the addition of Sanborn, Adebogun and now Wohler.
“For the 2021 class,” Wohler said, “we’re going to start building that relationship there and start recruiting other guys from our class to get them on board.”